Lorries up to 2.05 metres longer than current sizes could be allowed on Britain's roads by the end of the month, the Department for Transport has revealed, in a move criticised by Cycling UK who say the "alarming" plan would see cyclists and pedestrians sharing space with "longer and more hazardous lorries".
The announcement by the DfT comes this morning with the legislation to be laid today (10 May) ahead of roll out from 31 May, allowing semi-trailer combinations up to 18.55 metres to be permitted in a move the government says will "bring [a] £1.4 billion boost" to the economy by "supporting productivity and saving 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide".
In an 11-year trial the DfT says the longer semi-trailers (LST) were involved in 61 per cent fewer personal injury collisions than conventional lorries and urged operators to "put extra safety checks and training in place".
Operators will be legally required to ensure appropriate route plans and risk assessments are undertaken as well as use coming with operators being expected, but not legally required, to "put in place extra safety checks including driver training and scheduling, record keeping, training for transport managers and key staff, and loading of LSTs".
However, with 89 cyclists losing their life between 2016 and 2021 in collisions involving a heavy goods vehicle being driven on UK roads, there will be many with safety concerns about riding alongside even larger lorries.
DfT figures show that of 1,353 reported collisions involving a cyclist and an HGV driver in that period, 6.6 per cent resulted in a cyclist fatality, meaning that while the figure of 89 deaths is lower than the 301 cyclist fatalities involving a collision with the driver of a car (0.4 per cent of reported collisions), the percentage is far greater.
Furthermore, with 454 of the aforementioned 1,353 collisions resulting in a cyclist suffering serious injuries, the percentage of reported collisions with an HGV being driven resulting in a cyclist fatality or serious injury was 40 per cent between 2016 and 2021, higher than the respective 24 per cent for collisions involving the driver of a car.
Cycling UK said this morning's announcement is "alarming" and argued "further testing in real-life scenarios" should be undertaken before the "floodgates" are opened to "longer lorries rolling into our busy town centres and narrow rural lanes".
Campaigns manager Keir Gallagher said: "At a time when funding for infrastructure to keep people cycling and walking safer has been cut, it's alarming that longer and more hazardous lorries could now be allowed to share the road with people cycling and walking.
"Before opening the floodgates to longer lorries rolling into our busy town centres and narrow rural lanes, further testing in real-life scenarios should have been done to assess and address the risks."
Greggs, Morrisons, Stobart, Royal Mail and Argos are expected to use LSTs, having been some of the 300 companies to take part in the trial, Greggs' supply chain director Gavin Kirk stressing "drivers undertook additional training".
"We have monitored accidents, finding that they are as safe as our standard fleet," he said.
The DfT suggests that the new lorries will move the same volume of goods in eight per cent fewer journeys, estimating the effect could be "£1.4 billion in economic benefits" as well as taking "one standard-size trailer off the road for every 12 trips".
"Everyone around the country depends on our haulage sector for their everyday needs – from loo rolls to sausage rolls – and a strong, resilient supply chain is key to the government’s priority to grow the economy," roads minister Richard Holden said.
"These new longer lorries will make a big difference for British businesses like Greggs, who will see 15 per cent more baked goods delivered, from tasty pastries to the nation's much-loved sausage rolls.
"It's fantastic to see this change for our supply chain come into law, resulting in a near £1.4 billion boost to the haulage industry and driving economic growth. Let the good times roll as we reduce congestion, lower emissions and enhance the safety of British roads."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.